’Cats visit for first-round match
Incentives for fans who show up Sunday afternoon at Yurcak field include a free blackout T-shirt and a slice of pizza.
For the Rutgers women’s soccer team, the incentive is making their first conference semifinal since 2006.
The Scarlet Knights (12-4-2, 5-3-1) host Cincinnati (8-10-1, 4-4-1) in their AAC tournament quarterfinal matchup.
In their last match Sept. 27, the Knights captured a 1-0 road victory thanks to a game-winning goal by senior forward Jonelle Filigno.
Rutgers recorded 13 total shots in that contest, including nine on goal. The Knights also held Cincinnati to just eight shots.
“The offense works really hard to get back to help on defense,” said senior goalkeeper Jessica Janosz. “Whether it’s a long throw or a tough corner [from the opposition], they always help with marking and do a good job in a defensive role.”
The Knights know not to sleep on Cincinnati.
“I think they have gotten better since we last played them, but so have we,” said head coach Glenn Crooks. “They have great size and strength, which helps them on set pieces like corners and free kicks which they have a number of goals on.”
Rutgers shutout of the Bearcats was not an outlier. For the season, Cincinnati has been held scoreless in five of the team’s 10 losses.
The Bearcats’ offensive woes fall on their lack of a true scoring threat. Five Cincinnati forwards have combined to score nine goals. Rutgers’ forwards have 23.
The lack of a true scoring threat keeps the Bearcats toward the bottom of the AAC in offensive categories.
Since the offense cannot control the ball, Cincinnati surrendered 35 goals so far — most in the conference.
This first-round matchup seems tailor-made for Rutgers’ offense. The Bearcats’ play feeds right into the offensive mindset of the Knights, who try to find good opportunities to score and take advantage as often as possible with quality shots.
“It’s no secret what our offensive approach is,” Crooks said. “We want to control the ball to the best of our ability. We want to keep the ball and advance it.”
Rutgers finished the regular season fifth in goals and shots while landing sixth in points.
Rutgers’ Yurcak Field success this season gives promise for a home victory. The Knights hold a program-record 10 victories this season in Piscataway.
“To be rewarded with a home postseason game, it does this team justice. All the work they have done, the program deserves it,” Crooks said.
Rutgers’ only loss at home came in a 2-1 defeat Oct. 24 by Connecticut.
During that matchup, the Knights were took only five shots on goal. as the Huskies took 10.
Rutgers’ performance was unusual. On its home pitch, the Knights combined for 198 shots, including 88 on goal, putting pressure on the opposing team’s defense.
These added shots resulted in Rutgers outscoring their opponents, 24-6, at home and led to seven shutouts.
The Knights know what to expect going into their AAC quarterfinal game.
“They have some strong girls on their team with good height. They all play pretty physical,” Janosz said. “I think we have to, and will be able to, match their physicality. If we can do that and play with heart, I think we will do just fine.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.